Newspapers in Niigata are saying that Noriyoshi Sakai is going to stay at Avispa for another year on loan after having what (on paper) looks a very successful year last year in Fukuoka.
It hasn’t been officially announced by the club yet, but is a deal which makes sense for everybody involved.
Sakai isn’t going to get close to starting a game for Albirex Niigata, and even when aiming for the bench he has Masashi Suzuki in his way who is a younger, better version of the position he was playing for AVispa last year.
His position is a key point for Sakai. He is listed on Albirex information as being a midfielder, and I believe a left-sided midfielder, while on wikipedia someone seems to think his preferred position is central midfielder. Nothing I have ever seen suggests to me that he could play either of these positions, and if he stays at the club it will be interesting to see where he would play.
Pusnik played him as a combative striker, with balls aimed up to him to try and hold up or run onto. He did better at this role than I think he was expecting, and ended the season with 7 goals, primarily with his head from set pieces.
I think that time will show him that that season under Pusnik was his best season as a pro, and in a fe years back I predict he will look back and see that he had the opportunity and manager to make him a better player.
Unfortunately I think he will try to go back to playing in a more creative midfield role as a preference, where his terrible first touch and very inconsistent passing means he will never succeed (at J2 level let alone for Albirex in J1).
If the reports are true then I hope he comes into pre-season calling himself a combative striker and works in training on his first touch and holding the ball up to lay off for onrushing midfielders.
Having heard nothing about the loan players still at the club, while some have had their futures announced (Takeda gone to try and sit on the bench at Shonan, Nozaki to try and find a new career) in previous years this has meant that loan players have ended up staying for another season. Sometimes this has been as a continued loan (Daiki, Okada), and sometimes this has been as a transfer (Kohira).
For this reason I think the lack of information so far means that Lee Kwang Seon and Takumi Abe are probably both staying at Avispa.
Neither player is wanted by their parent club, and if Avispa were sending them back then I think it would have been announced already.
Lee Kwang Seon is a very good defender for us, at one point last season he was the leading defender in the division for headed clearances, but needs to play within his limitations.
At least once a game last year he blasted clearances about 30m straight up in the air, and should probably think about making things safe, even if it means sacrificing a bit of distance on his clearance.
He is also not a good player with the ball at his feet. What he can do is pass the ball 10-15m and should be practicing doing this to pick out one of the midfielders ahead of him rather than waiting for them to drop back, exchanging passes and blasting the ball into touch.
If one of the central 2/3 drops back to be standing next to him then they are occupying the same area of the pitch and making things too easy for the opposition. Players like Nakahara and Suzuki Jun need to play 15m higher up the pitch and give Lee Kwang Seon an easy option.
He was best known in the division for picking up the most yellow cards (by quite a long way). He shouldn’t worry about this, it will just take things away from his game, and reflects more on the quality of refereeing in this division, not his general play.
Takumi Abe is a different story. I don’t think he is good enough to get into out team, and doesn’t seem to have the attitude or work ethic to help himself get into the team.
He suffers from the same symptom as many Japanese footballers, as soon as they get a pro-contract they think they are the finished article and stop trying as hard as they should.
Potentially he might now have a Captain in someone like Hokuto who will be able to tell him to sort himself out and start following instructions a little better (or sufer the consequences in the changing room and in training), but I think it is probably a bigger symptom in Japanese football rather than something which can be easily sorted out.
What I’d really like to see is Takumi Abe go to play in England and see how long his attitude towards the team lasts there.